4.5.04

Going to the UK vs. National service?

OK, so many people have asked me about the wisdom of abandoning my National Service and going to the UK. I have carfully weighed both options and I strongly believe I'm making the right choice. While most of these people may not read this blog, writing this down will help me as well as inform those people who read this to understand my line of thinking:

NYSC: Without my NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) discharge, I cannot get a job in Nigeria. Well, this is not strictly true. I know a few people who came into the country, after having worked overseas for a few years, employers were willing to hire them as contract staff, or file them as 'expatriates'. So it's possible for one to get a job without it.

However, without the NYSC, I can never take a government job, or go into politics. Deep stuff. And it seems like I'm mortgaging my future for a short-term 'gain'.

But right now, I'm 26, going on 27, with little over a year of 'real' work experience. If I wait to finish the NYSC, I'll be close to 28, and one year of teaching 'Economics' in a village will not add value to my CV. It was hard enough getting a job at 26, but 28 it will be even harder. Most people looking for entry-level staff in Nigeria usually aske for people who are 26 or younger, some have even starting asking for people who are 24 or younger!! Not that finding a job will be impossible, but it will not be straightforward. So the NYSC could end up killing my career if I finish it. In hindsight, I should have done it when I finished university in 2001, before I went to do my masters' degree. But I can't change the past, I can only look to the future and try to make a way out. And the Working Holidaymaker Visa looks like my way out.

UK: OK, it's a 2 year visa, which allows me to work in the UK. So what happens after 2 years? Well, there are 3 options:

1. Apply for a HSMP(Highly Skilled Migrant Program) visa before my 28th birthday. This will be the ideal situation,as I won't be tied to any employer and will be free to change my job whenever I choose to. Under the current criteria, I will need to meet two more requirements to qualify:
i. I need one more year of work experience to make a total of 2 years or so.
ii.I need to earn £27,000 in one calendar year before I apply (if I am working in the UK)

With my 28th birthday being in October 2005, time is of the essence. But this is still a viable option, and I might be able to make it. It will be incredibly impossible to qualify after I'm 28, the criteria is really tough. (I need to earn £40,000 in a year, and have 5 years work experience!)

2. If I'm lucky, my employer can apply for a work permit for me from June 2005. I hope I'll find one who's ready to do this, but we can only wait and see. The disadvantage of this is that if I am on a work permit, I can't change jobs, and I'll be tied to that employer for the foreseeable future. Also, a lot of employers are reluctant to apply for work permits. So on this, there is still a 'wait-and-see' clause.

3. Oxygenonline.co.uk. They are willing to apply for a work permit on behalf of a company or for you to work for them. If they do it for the company, you pay them a fee, and they will sort out the permit for you and the company. The company has to be involved and in most cases, are prepared to pay the fee. However, if the company does not want to get involved, Oxygen will apply for a work permit and you become an employee of Oxygen, and they subcontract you out to employers. You can work on IT contract positions, using this permit. However, Oxygen will take a bit of your wages, for a period of 4 years or so........so this is not exactly the best option, but is a viable last resort !!!!

So that's my long term plan in a nutshell. Let's see how it all goes. But the miraculous way I got this visa has given me confidence that God is with me, and He's working all things together for my good! I'm so sure that going to the UK is the right thing. I just hope that all the people around me can understand my decision.

I'm sure it's going to be tough for the next few months. I need a place to stay, I need some money for the first few months, and I'll need a job ASAP. There is so much uncertainty ahead. But by God's grace, I plan to pull through and make it work !!

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